Following Jesus has led Renewal Church’s Lead Pastor, Matthew Levant, to unique and diverse places across the world. For several years he served as the pastor of a global church in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, and has helped to plant churches among the unreached in South Asia. Living in the Middle East or Central Texas makes no difference: God has called Matthew to proclaim the gospel and lead people to follow Jesus. This passion and calling for the unreached has propelled Matthew to plant Renewal Church, a church plant supported by its sending church, First Baptist Belton.
Graduates of the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor (UMHB) in Belton, Texas, Levant and his wife are no strangers to Central Texas and felt called to plant a church nearby their alma mater. With a large per capita of churches already residing in Central Texas, the idea of planting another ministry deep in the Bible Belt may outwardly seem unnecessary. Nathan Parr, with the Church Solutions Group offers this perspective: “Looking at the area, there’s this misnomer that because there’s an abundance of churches in Central Texas, the belief is that everybody goes to church. When you look at the data, you realize that there’s a significant percentage of the population that is unchurched who doesn’t know the gospel.”
Levant looked at several areas within Central Texas and chose Temple, a city that is experiencing significant growth and is conveniently just up the road from the sending church. This particular area is projected to double its population in the next five to ten years, and as a result the city is building new middle and high schools to accommodate incoming families. “To reach the new and emerging families moving to the area,” notes Parr, “Renewal Church has no plans to actually acquire ownership or build a facility. The goal is to eventually facilitate planting a new fellowship somewhere else in the community.” Based on a multiplying mode. Renewal Church is targeting a membership of around 300. Pushing beyond this attendance number, it is believed that too many people will have to drive farther in to attend, and thus begins the planning of a core team who will train to launch another church community.
Data and Demographics
When looking for data to support the process for selecting an ideal location to start a church plant, the core team at Renewal Church took advantage of studies already completed by Bell County’s planners. “We didn’t have reinvent the wheel to gather and analyze demographic data. We used some of the research and promotional material provided by the county that was created to draw in new potential businesses,” says Parr who shares that Renewal’s core team also relied on data provided by PEW Research. “We used a study that went county by county and talked about the actual percentage of the churched versus unchurched. That report was very eye opening as there’s a very high percentage of people in the area we chose who claim to be unchurched.” First vulnerable year of church planting According to Parr, the planning and preparation for Renewal’s launch took almost a year. “The first six months was a time of meeting and praying together. Then about six months before our launch we transitioned into actual training. We met to pray, worship together and then we would have teaching sessions. Our core team learned how to reach people, what we believe as a community — and why we believe it — with the understanding that as a church plant we’re going to meet our neighbors and be able to share the gospel. Also, those of us who are heading up small groups had meetings together to learn how to lead a home group, and how to reach out and be effective in that role,” says Parr.
About a month and a half out from the official launch date of Renewal Church, the team received two large trailers from Portable Church Industries’ Box Solutions (formerly Church in a Box). The full-service company designs mobile setups for portable churches and provided Renewal Church with a complete package. “You first tell your rep at Box Solutions what kind of space your ministry will have, how much square footage your ministry will use, the budget and goals. What we received
was a detailed design for a complete church set-up. In each trailers we received are labeled boxes – indicating where they go in the venue, and where exactly they fit on the trailers. So, you know exactly how everything fits. Box Solutions came out to train us and say, ‘Okay, here’s how you load. Here’s how you set it up. Here’s how you tear it down.’ In just a couple of training sessions we had it down: the children’s ministry, the main worship space, plus the hospitality area,” explains Parr. Prior to changes that came with COVID-19 the team at Renewal Church would arrive onsite at 7:30 on a Sunday morning and by 9:30am would be ready for services at 10:00am. “We were cleaned up and out of the building by 12:30pm,” says Parr.
Worship Tech Design
“Another thing that portable church industries did really well is how they designed the technical worship system,” tells Parr. For the portable sound system, Box Solutions provided Renewal with a Yamaha TF5 with a Dante NY64-D I/O expansion card for TF consoles, a DBX drive rack PA2 digital EQ /crossover /feedback /eliminator /compressor. Speaker selection includes 12-inch 1100W Active Speakers by Yamaha and video Rear projection is provided by two Vivitek WUXGA projectors with 6200 lumens each, and Vivitek Extreme Short Throw Lenses. Chauvet’s Obey 40 Lighting Controller with 3-Pin DMX lighting control, a 4-challnel two programmable 3-pin DMX dimmer pack and NSI 3-pin Microplex, 4 x 600 watts, 8 Source 4 Jr. 26 degree ellipsoidal with color frames, 8 ETC Source 4 fixtures and 8 Chauvet SlimPAR T12s. “Power in a rented facility is always a concern. For our technical gear, the equipment that draws the most power are the lights. It’s a very simple lighting rig setup, with eight Source 4s and, and eight LED multicolor fixtures, and LED floor lights, We have light towers on each side of the stage with four Source 4s each, and they actually draw the most power. Box Solutions provided heavy duty and very long extension cords for those light trees so they can each be plugged in on their own circuit. Because of where the lights plug in, versus where the sound gear draws its power, Box Solutions planned enough separation of circuit usage so that we’ve never had an issue with the power distribution,” notes Parr.
Mental and Ministry Adaptability
With current restrictions of venue usage due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Renewal Church lost their main meeting space in the area’s middle school. Instead the church found a smaller footprint to meet in the ballroom of a local hotel. “With a smaller space, we’ve consolidated. So instead of having two trailers every Sunday, we just shifted a few things around and we have only one trailer that we need to haul on Sundays. We don’t have a complex sound or lighting setup, which kept our power requirements down. And so even now, when we’ve consolidated stuff, we’re still able to use light trees and all our sound gear in the ballroom. We typically have two rear projection screens, but we’re using the hotel’s front projection screen during services and, along with a few other changes. We’re partnering with the hotel since they have certain things they provide, and we were able to consolidate. It’s been great because of our system’s flexibility because of the way it’s all portable. We were able to quickly adjust and, and change our footprint, which has kept our church operating,” says Parr. For Renewal Church their philosophy and outreach is not to build buildings and monuments to the faith with architecture. But rather the ministry recognizes that a building is simply a training area and a gathering point. According to Parr, “Our focus includes our home groups, and outreach working with the community. That’s where the majority of our funding goes, to supporting community efforts and then eventually to plant other churches. And that’s the goal to be a multiplying church, the real work of the church is out in the community with the people.”